Competing for food waste – Policies’ market feedbacks imply sustainability tradeoffs

Catharina Latka*, Alejandro Parodi, Ollie van Hal, Thomas Heckelei, Adrian Leip, Heinz Peter Witzke, Hannah H.E. van Zanten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Reducing food waste and reusing it as animal feed are often regarded promising solutions to enhance sustainability. Hitherto, food waste policy assessments rarely account for interdependencies between reduction and reuse interventions, and how their market - including trade - feedbacks influence sustainability outcomes. Here, we apply a global agricultural economic model to assess the impact of food system feedbacks on sustainability when EU consumer food waste is reduced or reused as pig feed. Our results show that food waste interventions easily result in sustainability tradeoffs. Halving food waste generates larger EU emission savings than its valorization as pig feed. EU savings remain below those expected when not considering market feedbacks, but additional emission savings are projected to arise abroad as consequence of shifting trade flows. When food waste is halved, decreasing food prices improve food access for consumers but reduce farmers’ income. The use of food waste as pig feed is only economically competitive if this novel feed is comparably cheap but then it stimulates pig production and imports of protein feed with potentially unsustainable consequences. Food waste reduction limits the amount of food waste biomass available for valorization. This could create unintended competition for food waste biomass. Thus, clear food waste reduction and valorization targets are needed, potentially focusing valorization on inedible waste parts only. Policy-makers need to consider such interdependencies when designing food waste interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106545
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • Food system
  • Food waste
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Pig feed
  • Valorization


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